Grandma of mar­kets rais­ing fam­i­lies

Bar­gains ga­lore – one can buy vir­tu­ally any­thing at the stalls

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - GOITSEMANG TLHABYE

EVEN though flea mar­kets sell­ing cu­rios and treats have be­come the trendy new places to fre­quent in Pre­to­ria – one such mar­ket ex­ists which could be regarded as the grand­mother of mar­kets.

That is none other than the Pre­to­ria Zoo flea mar­ket, which stands at the en­trance of the city from the north side.

The mar­ket is next to the en­trance of the Na­tional Zo­o­log­i­cal Gar­dens on Paul Kruger Street and it is the sign for many trav­el­ling from town­ships such Mabopane, Soshanguve, Ham­man­skraal and Ga-Rankuwa that they have ar­rived in the city cen­tre. It of­fers dresses, straw mats, beaded neck­laces, crafted cut­lery, tra­di­tional hats, shoes, herbs, paint­ings – an end­less list of cu­rios.

Tra­di­tional ar­ti­facts from African cul­tures can be found, some of them com­ing from Swazi­land and Botswana, and items range in price; shop­pers can spend any­thing from R5 to R500 for any­thing, in­clud­ing in­tri­cate beaded mas­ter­pieces.

Al­most ev­ery­thing is hand-made, and shop­pers can re­quest items be cus­tom made, in some cases, pieces can be made while they wait.

So­phie Masemola from New Eer­sterus, Ham­man­skraal, re­called how she first came to the mar­ket with her grand­mother in 1961. Her grand­mother had a stall and the girl was en­thralled by what could be achieved.

Masemola said she fol­lowed in her grand­mother’s steps and started cre­at­ing her own pieces to sell when she turned 12 in 1976.

“There wasn’t much to do back then, so my grand­mother started teach­ing us how to cre­ate sin­gle-beaded neck­laces. When she saw that we were gen­uinely in­ter­ested, she would then teach us how to cre­ate more dif­fi­cult pieces,” she said.

Masemola said there was no proper in­fra­struc­ture and they would of­ten get caught in the rain, heat and other el­e­ments.

“It was a dif­fi­cult time for us be­cause if we weren’t bat­tling the weather, then we would get ha­rassed by the po­lice,” she said.

De­spite the chal­lenges, she said her fam­ily chose to con­tinue sell­ing at the mar­ket rather than re­sort to do­mes­tic work.

“We used to sell each beaded neck­lace for 20 cents, and if you man­aged to make at least R20, you were sorted for the rest of the day.”

She said that thank­fully, things had im­proved, as they could now sell their pieces for a greater profit.

“This place, as quiet as it seems, helped my grand­mother raise our en­tire fam­ily on what­ever money she made from sell­ing her goods.”

Masemola said there had been a shift in the cus­tomer pro­file and more black peo­ple had started tak­ing an in­ter­est in their goods and of­ten bought them in bulk to re­sell.

Josephina Mabena said she started work­ing at the mar­ket in 1980 when she was just 18.

“I came here be­cause my mother wanted to keep us out of trou­ble and to teach us a skill we could use for the rest of our lives.

“It’s a pity not many tourists visit this side of the city. We take great pride in the things we make,” Mabena said. “We’re al­ways here and only take time off when we need to visit fam­ily or dur­ing an emer­gency.”

The mar­ket is open Mon­day to Sun­day from 7am.

Bead­work de­signer Josephina Mabena mak­ing tra­di­tional ac­ces­sories. Buy­ers can have items cus­tomer made.

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